How We’re Turning Our Dusty Old Collections Into Cold, Hard Cash

"Designer clothing, electronics, like cell phones and vintage radios, and even special-edition DVDs are eBay’s hot sellers right now."

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My husband and I used to love collecting. “He who dies with the most stuff wins!” we’d jokingly say. It started innocently enough with the DVD collection my husband’s been building since he was a teenager. It was already a few thousand—yes, thousand—discs strong by the time we met, and, together, we’ve added at least a few hundred more since getting married in 2008.

Then there was my Infamous Knitting Addiction of 2007-2014: I have three bags full of premium yarn, mostly paid for with student loan money. (Gulp.) My husband also has a small army of collectible figurines, and don’t even get me started on all my books.

But times are changing. We’re not going all-out minimalist, but we’ve decided to get rid of most of our collections.

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Why? For starters, we live in a small apartment that’s half the size of our old house we had to give up. We don’t have time to knit or binge-watch DVDs now that we’re side hustling our way out of debt. And, maybe most importantly, we’ve realized that stuff isn’t the key to happiness.

So we started wondering: How can we turn our old collections into cash? I hit up some experts to devise a three-step plan.

First, find out where your collections are in highest demand, eBay PowerSeller Danna Crawford tells me. For example, designer clothing, electronics, like cell phones and vintage radios, and even special-edition DVDs (hey!) are eBay’s hot sellers right now. “And with the holidays around the corner, the toy category rises high in the ranks,” Crawford says. (Check out this handy list for more suggestions of where to offload your old stuff.)

Next, settle on a sales strategy. While it’s more time consuming, financial advisor Chris Ball, who successfully sold off his CD and book collections while getting out of debt, suggests selling items individually. “People who are selling an entire collection usually just dump the whole thing for pennies on the dollar,” he says. By doing the opposite, he estimates he raked in up to 50 percent more.

The last step is naming your price. Crawford recommends WorthPoint.com as a good resource for researching historical sales prices for obscure items like art, action figures and comic books. You can also use the “sold listings” filter on eBay to see how much comparable items have sold for recently.

Part of me is sad to be saying goodbye to our collections. We’ve spent a lot of money on them over the years—they’re almost comforting at this point. At the same time, I feel good about this plan, and, as I keep reminding myself, we don’t actually use these things anymore. Even if we can recoup just a few hundred bucks, we can make a good dent in our debt.

And our apartment won’t look like an episode of “Hoarders” anymore.

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